Alien Movie Universe

Prometheus - What Was with the Alien Flute?
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MemberPraetorianJan-16-2018 5:18 PM

'Why do the Engineers, a race advanced enough to have mastered interstellar travel and unlocked the secret of life itself, have ships activated by the power of tin flute? Is it some sort of allusion to their culture inspiring ours, given that the flute is reckoned to be one of the earliest forms of instrument? Was the flute one of the Engineers’ gifts to us, along with life and language?

Sadly, we combed all three hours and 40 minutes of the disc’s making-of documentary in vain, and Ridley Scott says not a word about it in his commentary track. Jon Spaihts does mention it briefly, saying, “I’m not sure I’m sold on the whistle or the silly putty eggs”. The eggs, of course, are a reference to the fleshy buttons on the Engineer ship’s control console. 

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, we brought the subject up with Dr Anil Biltoo, the language consultant who both created the Engineers’ lingo and also appears in the film as a teacher hologram in a fetching white hat. Did he suggest the idea of the alien ship being powered by a flute?

“That wasn't in the script,” Dr Biltoo said, “and I have to say, I was quite shocked when I saw how they used that.”

The plot thickens. So if the ship wasn’t flute powered in the script, how did it work?

“There were some voice-activated sequences where Fassbender's moving around the pyramid and he reads glyphs,” Dr Biltoo explained. “He reads a writing system that seems to make sense to him. Now, in the script, he utters a sequence of words, and nothing happens. So he repositions the intonation, and something happens. The consoles light up on the craft, because they're speech activated. In the original script, they are not activated by flute.”

Dr Biltoo made it quite clear, therefore, that the flute didn’t spring from Lindelof’s mind, and Spaihts' bemusement on the commentary track certainly indicates that he didn’t suggest it, either. Although we have no firm evidence, the Prometheus Blu-ray does provide a few clues that Ridley Scott himself may have introduced the flute. 

In one of the snippets of supplementary footage on the extras disc, we see Scott walk around a large storage room with his filmmakers, choosing various bits and pieces to dress the sets. There are tables absolutely covered in random objects, ranging from Thermos flasks and Christmas decorations to mugs and executive stress toys.

As the camera follows him around, Scott selects certain objects quite rapidly, suggesting that one character might idly play with this item in one scene, and those items over there might look quite nice on a shelf in Vickers’ private quarters.

Given that Scott frequently made snap creative decisions throughout the film’s making, could it be possible that Scott saw the tin whistle in this storage room (along with Janek’s accordion, perhaps), and said, “You know what? This could be the ignition key for the spaceship.”

22 Replies


MemberTrilobiteJan-16-2018 5:24 PM

Honestly, it reminded me of this:


MemberPraetorianJan-16-2018 5:35 PM

dk - Look at that little finger! :D


MemberTrilobiteJan-16-2018 7:32 PM

Lest we forget:


ModeratorPraetorianJan-16-2018 10:46 PM

Sorry.....i just wanted to be part of the moment :)


MemberXenomorphJan-16-2018 10:56 PM

The flute symbolizes the voice of gods in some mythologies and if the ship was voice activated the flute playing makes sense. It is the metaphorical "reposition of the intonation" as seen by Ridley Scott. 


"He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!"


MemberNeomorphJan-16-2018 11:46 PM

never got the flute scene in Prometheus. don't get why a ship so advanced would be flute activated. voice activated I get so no unauthorised person can activate the ship but anyone can play the flute as David shows. pretty pointless to me


MemberXenomorphJan-17-2018 12:12 AM


As seen in Alien Covenant David was one skilled flute player. And there must have been a specific tune to activate the controls of the ship. Like a hymn or a romantic access code to a specific time and place.

If David had later on played the flute to the last surviving engineer instead of using words he might have had a better fate :)

"He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!"


MemberNeomorphJan-17-2018 12:35 AM

yea the engineer n Weyland may have slow danced n lived happily ever after lol ;)

he got the tune to activate the ship from the hologram


MemberTrilobiteJan-17-2018 12:39 AM

The Prometheus flute scene was insensitive to both the visually and hearing impaired communities. LOL- just had to throw it in there!


MemberXenomorphJan-17-2018 1:04 AM

As for the David - Walter flute scene, it might be that Ridley Scott knew about the Disney take over of the franchise when he filmed Alien Covenant. 

"He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!"


MemberXenomorphJan-17-2018 5:47 AM

Very alien scene. Something beyond the imagining of humans....Would you start your car with a violin? Of course not! You are human and don't understand alien egg tech or their ways. Alien.

Could have been a cliche' scene: push some (normal) buttons and grab a joystick(some human way to start a vessel)

50 years from now they'll still be discussing this scene.


AdminPraetorianJan-17-2018 5:56 AM

Ahem, just popped in to add this video to the discussion. Also, gonna feature this, thank you Ati!


MemberDeaconJan-17-2018 6:27 AM

Originally the Engineers Technology was Activated by waving hands around in a certain pattern interacting with patterns/markings that are all around the room, that only Engineer Eyes and David's could see and latter Dr Watts (Shaw) after she had worn some Googles made from the Engineers Space Jockey Suit Helmets.

Maybe these invisible markings could be like a series of notes that have to be activated via the Flute?

The Flute and other like-wise Ancient Woodwind Instruments have played a part in many Ancient Cultures and Mythos and many Ancient Tribal People still use them for connecting Spiritually as the music opens the Mind to a Higher State for communication with Spirits or indeed Meditation.

I dont have a issue with the use of Music within context to these Ancient Engineers and their Technology.

R.I.P Sox  01/01/2006 - 11/10/2017


MemberPraetorianJan-17-2018 12:36 PM

Svanya, thank you!

BigDave - So true! I can tolerate the flute scenes in the two movies. However, I don't like those 'silly putty eggs' either.


MemberPraetorianJan-17-2018 12:37 PM

Going to add my fav flute gif later... :)


MemberPraetorianJan-21-2018 2:29 PM

This is the ultimate flute scene! 8)


MemberOvomorphJan-22-2018 4:05 AM


As you must be aware, Prometheus had lot of allegories to religion/mythology,

In the Original draft (Alien: Engineers by John Spaihts), the Juggernaut was compared to Krishna's (Indian God) Wheel by David.  

Guess what's the musical instrument played by Krishna?  Its the Flute. 

There are lot of interesting articles you'll find on the net about Krishna's Flute, its meaning and why he plays it. 

That's the closest thing that comes to my mind about the Flute being in the movie.



The concept of 'Destroy in order to create' is very much of Lord Shiva's (Another Indian God) 'Tandava' Dance. 

Likewise, the Elephantine suit of the Engineers could be compared to Lord Ganesha (Elephant God). 




MemberDeaconJan-22-2018 4:29 AM

Indeed its certainly interesting to see the various connections that encompass various Ancient Mythos that can tie into the Prometheus Plot, it was never a case of the Biblical Accounts and so there are many loose connections that would fit in with the Engineers for sure.

As i mentioned Earlier the Flute played a role in a lot of Ancient Mythos, and indeed Krishna is just one example.


R.I.P Sox  01/01/2006 - 11/10/2017


MemberFacehuggerJan-22-2018 10:24 PM

The original 8-bit NES Zelda game had a flute which teleported you around the map and every Zelda game since then has utilized some kind of instrument as a major game mechanic.


MemberPraetorianJan-23-2018 7:27 AM

That is a great description The_Foxcatcher and a very fitting reference to Shiva and the Engineers.

I remember that auximenes. Link had to play the flute to open the doors. That is a wonderful reference. 

A producer described the Engineer holograms as tangible, spongy and that is why it affected David's hair when the hologram passed over him. Somehow the Engineer tech projects a physical form that the user interacts with, see green sphere below.

In Alien: Covenant, there was mildew/moss on the green sphere when Captain Oram ran his hand over it meaning this physical projection in the hologram (where moss grew) was in something like a standby mode but still projecting a physical form for moss to grow on. That would explain the repeating Dr. Shaw message because the panel was always on but not lit up because a hand had not run over it in a long time.

I like the Engineer tech (flute, spongy floating icons) because it was so foreign to what we build and in my opinion credible alien tech. The historical elements mentioned above add credibility to the tech user interaction. Our tech may evolve in radical leaps but there may be components of it (like a button or flute) that may stay in the user experience forever.


MemberNeomorphJan-25-2018 7:49 AM

Alright since it is me I got to ask: is it possible for a guy to play flute without it looking gay as hell? This is not meant to be an insult to gay people but I can't help but to think about that when I see it. Maybe I am a bit strange but it could fit wit the sex metaphors that Giger made.


MemberPraetorianFeb-04-2019 5:06 AM

As has been pointed out, the flute connects with many ancient civilisations & religions. Plus music is a universal language.

Nikola Tesla:If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of energy, frequency & vibration.” 

Experiments have shown that acoustical notes cause waves of vibration & movement. Many of you will be familiar with Chladni Figures.

In the late 1700’s German-born, Hungarian physicist & musician Ernst Chladni, did pioneering work in acoustics. He was able to create visualisations of audio frequencies, demonstrating two-dimensional standing waves using a sheet of glass covered in grains of sand. Drawing a bow over the glass plate until it achieved resonance, caused the sand to form intricate, sometimes complex, geometric patterns.

I doubt the choice of the flute is as random as many people believe. Ridley has an incredible store of knowledge about many, many things. The Prometheus soundtrack uses the flute melody in repeating forms throughout the film, using different instruments plus choral. I love the whole idea of the Engineers using the shape of sound & the beautiful geometry of music as an operational interface.

As a side-note, I believe it all connects rather wonderfully with much of H.R Giger’s artwork!


"Let The Cosmic Incubation Begin" ~ H.R. Giger

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